WESTMINSTER – Los Alamitos erupted for three second-quarter touchdowns, then its defense and special teams scored twice in 11 seconds in the fourth quarter, as the Griffins rolled past Upland 56-34 in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 2 playoffs Friday.
Alonzo Esparza passed for 188 yards and two touchdowns for the Griffins (9-2). He struck a dagger blow when he took Los Alamitos on a two-play, 90-yard drive which took 12 seconds in the closing minute of the third quarter.
Upland’s punt pinned the Griffins at their 10, but Esparza went to Hayden Eligon for 43 yards to the Upland 47, then on the next play found Carson Clark for a 47-yard TD and a 35-14 lead.
“I think our offense did a great job of minimizing our mistakes; high school football is about making mistakes,” Griffins coach Ray Fenton said. “We minimized that for sure, and then our defense made some stops when we needed them.”
The Scotts (8-3) stayed in the game for the first half by relying upon Arturo Alonso, who punched through Los Alamitos’ defense for 155 first-half yards, and quarterback Noah Sandoval, who threw for 208 yards and a touchdown.
But the Griffins held Alonso to 10 yards in the second half, and safety Isaiah Rubin, a USC commit, intercepted Sandoval twice.
The first interception by Rubin was a back-breaker, as Rubin returned the pick 65 yards for a touchdown with 10:24 left in the fourth quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, Jackson Bennett picked up Upland’s fumble in the middle of the pack and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown.
“That pick-six by Isaiah was a big turning point, and then we scored on their kickoff return, that was a phenomenal job,” Fenton said. “That’s a 14-point swing and our offense didn’t even take a snap.”
After the two teams swapped touchdowns in the first quarter, the Griffins began to show some strength after Sandoval’s 22-yard completion to Trestin Castro gave the Scotts first-and-goal at the 10. But defensive tackle Dre Taylor of the Griffins stopped Daily for a 1-yard gain on first down and dropped Sandoval for no gain on second down. Sandoval was forced to throw an incompletion on third down, and Josh Hadudocoeur’s 26-yard field gave the Scots their final lead of the night, 17-14.
A blocked punt by Josh Tuchek set up Lenny Ibara’s 8-yard touchdown run for a 42-14 lead for Los Alamitos in the third quarter.
Tuchek also had a couple of tackles for loss, and helped contain the Upland’s passing attack.
“We often put him on their best receiver,” Fenton said. “We didn’t’ give him any help. He was playing one-on-one football, and sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but if you win more than you lose you’re going to win some high school football games.”
Esparza threw a touchdown pass of 21 yards to Allen Wimberly less than two minutes into the game. He finished with a 47-yard scoring strike to Clark.